February 11, 2021

Contact: Yuridia Peña, [email protected], (718) 790-0837


During a community roundtable with community advocates, NYC Mayoral Candidate Donovan released his Criminal Justice Platform aimed at reimagining public safety and policing across New York City.

The plan promotes a public health approach to violence reduction, establishes a non-police mental health first responder team, commits to the decarceration of Rikers, and seeks to add accountability and transparency to the NYPD.

NEW YORK, NY —On February 10, Former Obama-Biden administration Housing Secretary and Budget Director Shaun Donovan unveiled a comprehensive Criminal Justice platform entitled ‘Reimagine, Reduce, Reinvest: Achieving Justice and Safety by Focusing on Community Needs’ with a community roundtable with local community advocates and experts on issues of justice, equity, inclusion, improving community-police relations, public safety, and community development in New York City.

The roundtable was moderated by Karume James, Supervising Attorney at The Bronx Defenders and Co-Director of the Columbia Law School Holistic Defense Externship; Stephanie Pacheco, Activist at Teens Take Charge; Dyjuan Tatro, Government Affairs Officer at the Bard Prison Initiative; and Shanequa Charles, Executive Director of Miss Abie’s Kids.

Key quotes and a video from the virtual roundtable are available below. 

Criminal Justice Community Roundtable 

“Police officers do not need to be in schools that should be fostering a learning environment…which Shaun mentioned earlier, [because it] only lends itself to the school to prison pipeline,” said Shanequa Charles, Executive Director, Miss Abie’s Kids. “In my community [young people] are experiencing the criminal justice system before they are teenagers; some of the alternatives that we can gauge is creating a community first atmosphere in school [to help] drastically reduce any instance of crime that happens in a school. In addition to making sure that folks are not experiencing the criminal justice system to begin with, we need funds to be allocated to preventative programs.”

“The best policy is not incarcerating people in the first place. In the current administration in New York City, de Blasio has aided… the governor in rolling back bail reform. As a result, we see the population on Rikers [Island] increasing for the simple fact that we are punishing people for poverty,” said Dyjuan Tatro, Government Affairs Officer, Bard Prison Initiative. “I am on board at the Fortune Society, the largest criminal justice organization in the country, they’ve been doing this work for a really long time and is on the ground in New York City doing critical re-entry work, from providing supportive housing to resume writing to job fairs to winter coat drives.”

“I believe that when we are having the conversation of gun violence rather than thinking how to take off guns off the streets… we need to think about how we got here in the first place; and it has nothing to do with the Black and Brown low income communities that are being affected by this issue and everything to do with the extremely impoverished conditions that our neighborhoods have been placed in historically for decades – that’s what has led to gun violence,” said Stephanie Pacheco, Activist at Teens Take Charge. “We need to have  a conversation about how we are going to tackle long-withstanding institutionalized poverty and racism within our communities. That means reallocating resources and investing in education,  in health care, in food, in housing [to] truly [create] a healthy and strong community.”

“This has been a great conversation to be a part of; we had an incredible group of panelists who engaged in a thoughtful and lively discussion,” said Karume James, Supervising Attorney at The Bronx Defenders and  Co-Director of the Columbia Law School Holistic Defense Externship. “Many cities including New York have taken complex issues like violence prevention, mental health, substance abuse and community policing and place them in the hands of police; as we talk about reimagining the NYPD, it is critical to focus on what role the police should play in our communities and what alternatives to policing should be expanded and available to address these issues.”

The over 5,000-word platform lays out Shaun Donovan’s vision for a New York City where safety is addressed constructively, where incarceration is viewed as a last resort, and where the priority is getting people the help they need by addressing the root causes of violence, be they related to economic opportunity, health, housing, or other issues.

“For too long we’ve relied on over-policing and over-incarceration instead of addressing cycles of mental health problems, underemployment and unemployment and poverty, that have thwarted generations of New Yorkers, particularly our Black and Latinx neighbors. We’ve also made very little effort to support the stabilization and reintegration of the formerly incarcerated,” said NYC Mayoral Candidate Shaun Donovan. “My plan focuses on tackling these issues by reimagining a public safety system that is accountable and community-driven, and reinvesting in services to build safe and healthy communities.”

The platform emphasizes redirecting police resources toward guns and serious crime and addressing mental health crises, school safety, and other challenges through other, more specialized experts.

Highlights of the platform include:

  • Making closing the out-of-state gun pipeline a top priority and targeting police resources accordingly, working closely with the Biden administration and mayors, governors, and law enforcement officials across the country to disrupt and restrict out-of-state guns from illegally entering our city.
  • Creating a dedicated mental health crisis hotline to divert calls from 911 and investing in frontline mental health crisis resources to respond to these crises.
  • Removing police from schools, starting with schools that employ multiple School Resource Officers (SROs), and reinvesting savings in Positivity, Prevention, and Relationship Response Coordinators.
  • Stopping police crackdowns that disproportionately impact immigrant New Yorkers trying to make a living, like delivery workers and street vendors.
  • Tripling our city’s investment in community-led approaches to violence reduction, and making targeted investments into the communities that have been most harmed by violence through health care, education, housing, and employment, and other areas.
  • Remaking a police department that is accountable, transparent, and responsive to community needs by appointing a commissioner and building a leadership team that together share a community-focused, racially-just view of public safety and hold individual officers responsible for bad acts.
  • Ensuring that the police department’s use of surveillance technology is responsible, transparent, and consistent with democratic values.
  • Using jails only as a last resort, stopping solitary confinement, reorienting the culture and operations of our jails, and removing all incarcerated people from Rikers Island before the end of 2027.
  • Providing Section 8 vouchers to people leaving jail and prison, investing at least $30 million annually in new funding to establish additional supportive and transitional housing beds, and establishing a dedicated reentry office to coordinate housing and services for people leaving jail and prison.

A Donovan administration would be committed to reinvesting savings from criminal justice reform toward supporting communities that have historically been harmed by policing and prosecution. The extensive platform was lauded by criminal justice experts:

This plan follows a series of other ambitious, comprehensive policy proposals, achievable only through Donovan’s equity-driven approach that prioritizes gathering input from every relevant community, advocacy group, and business sector. Among these are his plans to create 500,000 jobs for New Yorkers by the end of his first term, open libraries 7 days per week in every neighborhood, make every neighborhood in the city a “15 minute neighborhood” — where every resident has access to a great public school, fresh food, rapid transportation, a park, and a chance to get ahead within 15 minutes of their front door — and launch equity bonds, whereby every New York City child will receive $1,000, plus up to an additional $2,000 each subsequent year. Last week he released his landmark Housing plan aimed at ending homelessness and providing affordable housing for all New Yorkers.

For more details on Donovan’s Criminal Justice Platform, please visit shaunfornyc.com/issues/criminal-justice/.

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